April 8, 2009 - Peering through Nature's telescope - Gravitational Lensing - Mr. Karoun Thanjavur, UVic

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Gravitational lensingApril 8, 2009 - Peering through Nature's telescope - Gravitational Lensing as a window into the distant universe - Mr. Karoun Thanjavur, Graduate Student, Dep't of Astronomy and Physics, University of Victoria

Abstract: Gravitational "bending" of light is one of the many unintuitive phenomena predicted by Einstein's theory of Relativistic Gravity, which have since been unambiguously borne out by observations. Since the first confirmation of a gravitational lens in 1979 -nearly 45 years after it was proposed- the catalogue of confirmed lenses now runs to a few hundreds. With advances in the instrumentation available at the modern 8m class telescopes, the magnification boost provided by this Nature's telescope is now being harnessed to probe physical processes in the high red-shift universe with a level of detail that would otherwise be extremely challenging. My presentation aims to pictorially describe gravitational lensing, trace its history as an observational tool and present two applications and related results drawn from my own thesis research.

Bio: Developing innovative uses for gravitational lensing as an observational tool was the focus of my recently completed dissertation entitled Cosmic Applications of Gravitational Lens Assisted Spectroscopy (GLAS) (UVic, Oct. 08), For this work, I use integral field and multi-object spectroscopy of gravitational lenses to understand processes governing star formation and associated feedback mechanisms in galaxies at red-shift beyond one as well as to map the assembly of mass on the scale of galaxy groups. These explorations of the distant universe come after a full career as a mechanical engineer, specializing in control systems and robotics, and so this opportunity to combine cutting-edge telescope technology with one of Nature's many wonders has been an enriching experience. During the current academic semester, I am teaching General Relativity and Cosmology at UVic, which is providing me with an additional opportunity to share these fascinating areas with my group of senior students.

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